San Diego Retreat Great Success

San Diego

By Don Marske

By all accounts, the San Diego retreat was a great success! Nearly 70 CH2M HILL retirees, Emeritus members, and employees enjoyed four beautiful days in sunny San Diego, California. The Sheraton Hotel and Marina staff did a wonderful job taking care of all our needs. The hotel was a great place for the retreat, providing a relaxing setting, beautiful accommodations, and excellent meals. The nearby attractions offered many options for tours, shopping, and eating. The committee and event staff designed a great agenda that gave everyone an opportunity to enjoy a variety of activities including a tour of some special Navy facilities, time at Balboa Park, golf, company updates, and of course, personal time to catch up with old friends.

USS Freedom

One of the central features of the retreat was a first class tour of the USS Freedom, a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Thanks to Captain Chris Peterschmidt (son of Bill Peterschmidt) and his command staff, we got to experience the USS Freedom while she was on dry dock undergoing modifications and painting. The USS Freedom is the first prototype of a new class Navy ship, designed to provide access and dominance in coastal waters.

After we toured the USS Freedom, Chris gave us a tour of the ship’s training facility – a virtual reality simulator. The simulator provided very realistic training on all aspects of running and piloting the LCS. Once trained on the simulator, the sailors are competent to go directly to the ship – another first for the Navy. We were not able to take any photos, but a couple of us got to man, or in the case of Suzanne Kennedy, madam the controls. Unfortunately, Captain Suzanne Kennedy ran out of fuel and had to beach the USS Freedom before we got it back to port!

Tour of USS Freedom
In Dry Dock
USS Freedom

Evening Events Roundtable
On Monday night we had a welcome reception and a dinner at the hotel. It was a little chilly on the patio, but we all had a chance to visit with old friends. Jerry Boyle hosted the evening’s program that opened with a special video message from Lee McIntire. Lee shared highlights of the firm’s strategic plan that emphasized the firm’s direction as we approach 2015. Mike Kennedy then gave us an update on the incredible Panama Canal project for which CH2M HILL is Program Manager. Following Mike, Jerry Boyle and Richard Pyle, the San Diego office manager, gave us an overview of the history of the southern California operations (PDF) and a look forward for the San Diego office (PDF) – the years to come in San Diego will be exciting ones and will be wonderful for the firm. The fun really got going when Jerry hosted a panel of honored guests (Gene Suhr, Mike Fisher, Les Wierson, and Sid Lasswell) who shared their early reflections on the firm. Because Gene wasn’t able to be there in-person, we kicked off with a video interview of Gene Suhr and finished with reflections from Sid Lasswell, Les Wierson, and Mike Fisher (link to Reflections video and Gene Suhr video interview). The evening ended with a special presentation honoring Gene Suhr (PDF). Gene couldn’t make the trip, but Jerry and Mary Boyle prepared a photo book of the presentation that several of us were able to sign for delivery to Gene.

On Tuesday night we had another reception and buffet dinner at the hotel. Gordon Koblitz hosted the evening program that opened with a presentation by Bill Dehn. Bill highlighted the changes the firm is making to sustain our competiveness. Eliza Speranza and Bob Chapman presented a special recognition of Ken Miller and the 20th Anniversary of Water for People. The recognition was made extra special by the presence of Ken’s family including Betty Miller, his widow. Eliza and Brian MacDonald brought the evening to a close with a presentation about the firm’s (O&MBG) signature design-build-operate water treatment plant at Twin Oaks (PDF).

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Balboa Park

Enjoying Balboa Park, Golf & the USS Midway Tour
In addition to the USS Freedom tour, all of us had the opportunity to also tour the USS Midway, experience Balboa Park destinations (zoo, museums, and shopping), or golf at the Avaira Golf Club. Some of us chose to strike out on our own and take in some other sites – there’s so much to see and do in San Diego!

Avid golfers had their own special trip to the Avaira Golf Club – a golf club designed by Arnold Palmer and named one of the best resort courses in America by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. Those golfing were John and Jean Ann Echternach, Vern and Carol Anne Nelson, Ron and Carlene Ott, Harry Mejdell, Dave Evans, Tom Haislip, Bill Irving, and John Lee. We know they had a great time because we got to hear about the day at Tuesday’s dinner reception. But we weren’t able to entice high or low scores out of anyone, not even pictures – guess what happens on the golf course stays on the golf course.

For those who toured the USS Midway, Gordon Koblitz found two videos about about F-18 carrier operations and the dangers experienced during combat missions.
Video (Part 1), Video (Part 2).

Thanks to Judy Lasswell, Mary Koblitz, Bill Crittenden, Bill Peterschmidt, and Don Marske for sharing their photos!

Balboa Park Photo 1
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USS Midway Tour Photos

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San Diego

The last day of the retreat began with breakfast and a CH2M HILL Alumni & Retiree program update. We learned that there are several geographic areas expected to become CH2M HILL’s retiree ‘hotspots’. They include Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington, Georgia, Florida, Alaska, Texas, and South Carolina. In addition to continuing AlumniConnect as the primary means of helping retirees stay connected and supporting the biannual retreats, over time, we will likely look to grow programs regionally where there is interest and leadership from the retirees.

Don Marske hosted a wrap-up that included a review of the pros and cons of this year’s San Diego retreat. We also had a good discussion about the time and location options of our future retreat. Our thanks go out to the new and returning volunteers who agreed to help with the 2013 Retiree/Emeritus Retreat: Mike Harris, Les & Myrna Wierson, Gordon Koblitz, Don Marske, Al & Marlene Wollmann, Bob Chapman, Arlen Borgen, Mike Anglea, Ken Williams, Harry & Dorothy Mejdell, Vern & Carol Nelson, and Mike Kennedy. If anyone else is interested in helping out, please get in touch with Gordon Koblitz at or See you in two years!


The biannual retreat in San Diego was an event to remember! A BIG thanks goes out to everyone who helped make it happen – it was truly a cooperative effort that could not have happened without everyone’s effort and input. And, thanks to the folks who shared their photos and memories for this featureā€¦ Judy Lasswell, Mary Koblitz, Bob Crittenden, Bill Peterschmidt, and Don Marske.